Why the US Congress is so old? It always has been.

The Washington Post ran an interesting analysis of Congressional median age over the years and found… it’s always been a place for older folk.

The median age of members of Congress in 1989 was 52.8. So what would you guess was the average age in 1969? If the trend above is an actual trend, you’d figure, what, 45? Well, no. It was 53.

Slate had a good look at the fluctuations in the age of Congress over time when the 113th Congress took office in 2013. That Congress was fairly old, though younger than the 111th, which was the oldest Congress ever. But this, the site’s Brian Palmer wrote, is a function of variations in politics, not populations. The House was once seen as a stepping stone to higher office, which led to shorter terms. The transition to seniority-based positions of power made sticking around more worthwhile. And, of course, a dramatic anti-incumbent fervor could do remarkable things for the average age of Congress.

That’s because winning a seat in Congress depends on a lot of elements falling into place for a politician. It’s not as though there’s only one qualified candidate in every congressional district. Every place has scads of city council members or state senators or assembly members or selectmen and -women or any number of other elected officials who are waiting for a vacancy or a moment of weakness to challenge an incumbent. Often, any speculation about imminent retirement or a plunge in poll numbers leads to behind-the-scenes jockeying to line up support just in case. The number of things that need to fall into place for even a qualified, popular politician to win higher office is remarkable. In California, Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have been working later in their lives than a lot of Americans. But they’ve also been consistently reelected and enjoy broad support in the state.

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